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History of Essendon Rowing Club, 1880-1980

12. The New Clubhouse 1970-1980

Vice President and Life Member J. Nicholaisen passed away in July 1970. W. Bendon accepted this position of Vice President. The Club's Honorary Secretary and Life Member, Charles Chalmers died on April 3rd 1971 after a record term of 19 years in this position.

Although Essendon did not register many regatta wins during the 1970-71 season, there were some pleasing features; Stewart Sheridan and Bruce Tregonning won the State Junior Pair at Wentworth following a Junior Pair win at Yea. John Heyes and John Hevot won a triple Maiden Pairs, both pairs were coached by Ray Smith. Other crews finished in second place in 6 events. The Club was represented, for the first time, in the Veteran Eight Section at the Hawthorn Head of the Yarra Regatta. This crew finished a worthy second.

The new sewered toilet block was completed during the year and was officially opened on Opening Day.

Efforts were made throughout the season to maintain the Club’s financial position. A raffle was organised and a ‘cent tin’ was installed in the recreation area of the Clubhouse – the purpose to collect small change donations from members which would purchase ‘Tatts’ tickets.

Quotes were sought from professional painters·to repaint the interior of the upstairs of the shed. As quotes were unacceptable members, with the help from some Footscray Rowing Club members, undertook to do the job themselves. The Essendon City Council provided the paint and the materials for roof and spouting repairs free of charge.

The Captain R.J. Smith informed the Committee that the fleet would have to be updated and repaired before new active members could be encouraged to join the club, after a concentrated review, the "A. J. Shepherd" and the "D.H. Brooke" were destroyed, the "B. L. Smith", was repainted and an effort was made to sell the other old boats.

Vice President, Oscar McKay died and left a bequest of $1,000.00 to the club. A new tub pair was purchased and subsequently named "J.E. Simmie".
A Lightening Premiership for Football was conducted against other Association Rowing Clubs. The team fielded by Essendon were the victors on the day.

The club attained moderate wins during the 1971-72 season with wins by the Junior Pair and a Novice Four coached by Ray Smith and Bruce Smith, respectively, and an excellent second in the State Championship by Junior four coached by Kevin Sleeth. Other crews performed well to gain placings on seven occasions. A good win was scored by the Veteran Eight (a composite crew with Footscray City) in their section of the Hawthorn Head of the Yarra Regatta.

There was a pleasing increase in the number of members representing the Club at regattas, particularly in the number of new recruits.

During the year Essendon’s club facilities were made available to members from the Footscray City Rowing Club after their shed and equipment were destroyed by fire.

The Smoke Night had been the best for several years with about 60 in attendance; Club dances and Barbeques, were well attended and at the Annual Children’s Christmas Tree over 90 children were there. A new 11 H.P. outboard motor and a set of 10 oars were purchased during the season.

Money was donated towards a fund established to send the Australian Eight to Europe for International Competition before the Olympic Games. The Essendon City Council were asked to have a coral outcrop dredged from the river after two oarsmen were seriously injured in an accident on February 14th, 1972. The accident involved two crews - the Footscray - Essendon Veteran Eight in the "Pratt-llkin" and a club maiden four in the "T.L. Mannix" when both coxswains, while steering a course to miss·this outcrop "which extended one third of the river's width", collided.

Although the performance during the 1972-73 season improved, only moderate success was achieved. There was a great treble by the Novice Four coached by John Crowley and wins by three Novice Pairs, coached by John Crowley and Ray Smith. The Veteran Eight (composite crew with Footscray City) coached by Kevin Smith won their section on the Hawthorn Head of the Yarra for the second year in succession.

Enrolment and the training of recruits resulted in a gratifying number of trained permanent oarsmen within the club.

During the 1973-74 season, the Club won the State Second Division Junior Premiership and outpointed all Junior Clubs in the first division to establish Essendon as the top Junior club in Victoria from a relatively small team of 25 very fit oarsmen. The recruitment and training program was continued with excellent results.

The Veteran Eight scored the 'Hat Trick' at the Hawthorn Head of the Yarra. Social commitments were successful, the Smoke Night, the Rowers Lightening Football Premiership held at Bacchus Marsh maintained Essendon's unbeaten record. Both the men and women 'tug of war' competition went to Essendon also.

Opening Day, the 'Mayor of Essendon Fours' where the new racing four was christened 'K.J. Sleeth', two barbeques, the Children’s Christmas Tree, the Premiership Celebration and the Sunday morning gatherings of ‘old’ members who revisited the club to renew past acquaintances are an indication of the clubs involvement socially.

Bonar Jones died during this season; he had been a conscientious club member since the early 1920's.

Nice recruits were enrolled from the Strathmore High School. The Aberfeldie Football Club were approached and encouraged to recruit in the Essendon Rowing Club after the close of their season as the current circuit training program obviated the need for greater club membership.

Footscray City Rowing Club held its Opening Day at the clubhouse on October 26th 1974.

The eight "Copas" and four "McKay" were given to the Yarrawonga Rowing Club.

The perpetual trophy, in the form of a Shield with the City of Essendon insignia, donated by the Mayor of Essendon for the 'Mayor of Essendon Fours' was gratefully accepted by the Club.

The Essendon City Council was notified of the danger of the Boulevard after a car collided with the bow of the tub four "Roe Pyke".

A second hand eight was purchased from Brighton Grammar School, and the racing eight the "C. C.E. James" was sold.

The club, captained by Lindsay Saunders, consolidated it's position at the top of the Victorian Rowing during the 1974-75 season with it' s annihilating win in the First Division Junior Premiership with 128 points and Barwon 72.

At the beginning of the season there were only two active who had won Junior races, but by the season's end five Junior eights, four Junior fours and five Junior pairs had been won. Essendon was well placed with the State Championship -second in the Four and Pair and third in the Eights. For the first time in the History of the Club oarsmen were represented at a National Regatta when Essendon crews were entered for the Australian Champion Junior Eight and Four titles at Petrie, Queensland.

1975 National Championships program cover

The Premiership was a complete Club effort on the active side as well as total co-operation from all members, which was displayed when the boat shed was flooded and a concentrated effort by members to repair and renovate the backroom and also raise the necessary funds to replace the staging which had been washed away to keep the active rowers in new equipment.

A highlight of the year was Henley on the Maribyrnong staged by the Club, after an absence of 10 years in conjunction, with the Essendon Lions Club when the new racing eight was christened the "R.J. Smith".

The club suffered their first defeat at the finals of the Rowers Lightening Football Premiership to Banks by one point; they also lost the Tug of War to Wendouree-Ballarat.

The Social Committee for this season was led by Rob Godsen; the usual annual events were organised as well as additional barbeques, a group party at the Trots, and "Billy Barns Barn" to raise money for the Junior Eights trip to Queensland.

The Smoke Night was held for the first time at the North Suburban Club. New equipment purchased this season was two racing eights, a set of 10 oars, an aluminium runabout boat with an outboard motor and a boat trailer.

During the 1975-76 season, the Committee decided to meet the Sunday. following regular monthly meetings for the sole purpose of electing new members.

J. Stuckey, W.A. Bendon and J. Crowley were elected to a sub-committee to look in to the re-building of the Clubhouse. $l,000.00 was received from L.J. Vaughan and was invested for the sole purpose of the "Essendon Rowing Club Re-Building Fund" on July 17th 1975. An additional account was opened, the "Essendon Rowing Club Social Account", with an initial deposit of $200.00 after the first meeting of the newly formed Social Committee. Too the Club committee instigated the formation of another fund raising body in the ''Essendon Rowing Club Ladies Committee". This Committee had a two-fold purpose - one to suggest social functions for members and themselves, and two to help to organize dances, the Children's Christmas Tree and run additional stalls, bar-b-ques and raffles.

Rule 8 was, on February 19th, 1976 amended and subscriptions were raised to S15.00. Oarsmen were charged $1.50 entry fee per oar, per regatta and that the surplus over and above the entry fee paid be applied to meet the cost of boat transport to these regattas. This amendment came after a resolution made on November 20th 1975 whereby an allowance of six cents per kilometre was paid to members for trailer haulage to regattas.

During the season the Club negotiated for a new racing pair the "R.F. Hammon" and a new racing four. Additionally eight trestle tables were acquired for Club use and hire of $2.00 each 24 hour period. Fifty chairs were also purchased. Club 'T' Shirts were adopted on August 21st 1975.

For the first time in the history of the Club, medallions were awarded to active oarsmen in recognition of the Premiership wins the Club was experiencing at this time.

During the last four years of the Essendon Rowing Club, from 1976-1980, the club has not experienced again the success of the early seventies in premiership racing. The highlight of this period was the erection and opening of the new Clubhouse in August 1977.

Since 1977, the Club was consolidating, paying off their deficits and working towards a premiership victory in their Centenary year.

The Essendon Rowing Club, though is not the oldest rowing club in Victoria, but is one that has maintained itself throughout it's one hundred year existence by the work of a central core of dedicated men. The Club gives much acclaim to it's Presidents over the years, but these men were ably supported by a very hard working committee, which I feel accentuated the effectiveness of the President in at the lime. The result of this very efficient club administration can be seen when looking back at the history of the club and noting; that they have had the means to build two boathouses and maintain their fleet as one of the best in Victoria.

The E.R C. has not been endowed with an overwhelming dominance in Premiership racing. There have been three eras in Club history where the club has experienced a fairly successful run in premiership racing - this was in the early fifties, the early sixties and the early seventies. In the history of the Club, Essendon has won six Premierships - in seasons 32-33, 57-58, 62-63, 73-74 and 74-75 the Club won the Junior Premiership of Victoria and in season 1958-59 Essendon won the Lightweight Premiership of Victoria.

The Club has suffered a number of catastrophes during it's time. The worst of these were experienced in the late 1920's where practically all the Club's racing fleet was destroyed by fire. Firstly in 1926 when the boat builders - Jas Edwards and Sons' premises burnt down, and again in 1929 when the Hawthorn boathouse, where Essendon were storing their fleet, was demolished by fire.

The Essendon Rowing Club is a major sporting body in the City of Essendon, and has done much to promote their sport in the area. As early as 1956, the Club was sponsoring crews from the local high schools.

The Rowing Club has always had a close affiliation with the Essendon City Council. It was the Council who gave the land to the E.R.C. to build their first clubhouse on, and it was the Council who donated funds and trophies to the club, in their times of need.

It is indeed unfortunate that the Club has not in it's possession the full complement of Committee meeting minutes and annual reports from which this report was written. Is a result it is hard to ascertain when events first occurred in the history of the club.

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